From Vanderpump Rules’ Scandoval to Sia handing out more cash to Survivor players, a lot happened in the reality TV world this May.
This is, as always, a curated list of what I found fascinating, informative, or worth noting, including a new reality TV-themed version of Monopoly, documentation of the horrors people experienced on America’s Next Top Model, and Yvie Oddly’s blistering critique of Drag Race’s producers.
If you see great or fascinating stories, social media posts, or anything else, please send links my way!
Kate Aurthur goes deep into the production of Vanderpump Rules and how the show restarted filming to cover the unfolding Tom Sandoval scandal:
I did not realize Padma Lakshmi was cast as host of Top Chef but could not do season one, which is why Katie Lee was hired. That, and so many other details, are in this oral history of Top Chef’s first season:
This oral history of Survivor’s editing is a few years old, but it was new to me, and super-fascinating:
- Outwit, Outplay, Out-cut: How the Editing Team Has Kept the ‘Survivor’ Tribe Together Through 40 Seasons
There’s been a lot of reporting and cultural criticism about America’s Next Top Model and its problems, and 14 cast members have gone on the record with EW about some horrific things, from sexual assault to the winner losing their title because of sex work:
- 14 America’s Next Top Model stars speak on 20 shocking moments from ANTM‘s 20-year history: ‘It was traumatic’
May 2023 reality TV news
- Love Island UK cast members will be subject to new guidelines and training. Among other things, they “will complete video training and guidance across a number of topics, including mutually respectful behavior in relationships, behavior associated with controlling and coercive behavior, as well as language around disability, race and ethnicity, sexuality, and microaggressions before they meet the other cast members.” [RealScreen, 5.30.23]
- Yvie Oddly tweeted that RuPaul’s Drag Race’s producers are “often the greediest, most-calculating, capitalist culture thieves,” saying “They fuck with real people’s lives, career opportunities, and health. They drive themselves home in their luxury cars when their contestants are sleep-deprived, depressed, and DRASTICALLY underpaid for their contributions to the cultural phenomenon” and “tell themselves they’re good people for showcasing queer content and creating opportunities for us while ignoring the irreparable damage they cause.” [5.29.23]
- Survivor Marquesas first boot John Raymond is running as a Republican for Louisiana state house—while “charged with four counts of criminal cruelty to juveniles” after being “accused of holding a 4-year-old boy upside down by his ankles and ‘whipping his buttocks’ and taping three 13-year-old boys’ mouths shut with packing tape for talking too much in class,” according to the Shreveport Times. Hemant Mehta wrote that Raymond is “so unlikeable that, in 2018 and 2019, when he ran for a seat in the Louisiana State House on a campaign of loving Donald Trump and hating gay people, even Republicans rejected him. Twice!” [Shreveport Times, 5.26.23]
- In the UK, “nearly half of UK freelancers working in unscripted TV are not currently employed, with many struggling financially as a result,” The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union said after surveying people. [BECTU, 5.25.23]
- Sia gave money to Survivor’s Carolyn ($100,000), Lauren ($15,000), and Carson ($15,000). Here’s how much she’s given away total since season 32. [5.25.23]
- American Idol winner Iam Tongi, a high school senior, is the first non-country singer to win in three years, and is the first person from Hawaii and the first Pacific Islander to win. USA Today also notes his “audition is the most viewed video on the American Idol YouTube page.” [USA TODAY, 5.22.23]
- Padma Lakshmi had a category on Jeopardy! Masters, and she has the video on her Instagram. [5.19.23]
- An insightful interview with Jeopardy! executive producer Michael Davies, about everything from the newest tournament to the new hosts. He says, “I want to build an elite pyramid of competition that plays a postseason every single year at the same time that allows our best players to compete against each other.” [Vulture, 5.18.23]
- Netflix’s Outlast, which shocked with its lack of rules and turned one of its players into a villain, will return for a second season. [Netflix, 5.15.23]
- The Real Housewives of New York City “legacy” cast will go on vacation to Saint Barthélemy together on Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip, rather than hanging out in New York City. The cast: are Kelly Killoren Bensimon, Luann de Lesseps, Dorinda Medley, Sonja Morgan, Ramona Singer, and Kristen Taekman. [Peacock, 5.15.23]
- Fox renewed a bunch of reality TV: Farmer Wants a Wife, Hell’s Kitchen, I Can See Your Voice, LEGO Masters, The Masked Singer, Name That Tune, Next Level Chef, and Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test. The network also said there will be a new season of Kitchen Nightmares—which went away when Gordon Ramsay tried to produce his own version—and another LEGO Masters: Celebrity Holiday Bricktacular.
- Jamie Foxx and Corinne Foxx will host a new Fox reality show, We Are Family, another guessing game show on which “a studio audience entirely comprised of 100 contestants playing through multiple rounds of clues and gameplay to win up to $100,000 each by correctly guessing which celebrity the performer is related to.” [Fox, 5.15.23]
- RuPaul gave a tour of his mansion on TikTok. [5.13.23]
- ITV is airing a dating show with all gay guys, I Kissed a Boy, and The Guardian’s review calls it “a queer summer treat.” [The Guardian, 5.13.23]
- An interesting piece about how Eurovision is “a deeply serious political affair” that countries and politicians “have used it as an astonishingly effective form of political power – and reinvented themselves in the eyes of the world.” [The Guardian, 5.13.23]
- The BBC’s version of Survivor released a teaser trailer. [5.13.23]
- RuPaul’s Drag Race now has its own version of Monopoly. [5.12.23]
- For early 2024, NBC announced yet another America’s Got Talent spin-off (sigh) and Deal or No Deal Island, which the network says “brings the iconic game to the Banker’s private island for the biggest prize in series history.” [NBC, 5.12.23]
- Chase Chrisley said the family’s new show, filmed while his parents are still in prison, will “be real raw. The good, the bad, and the ugly.” Maybe we could just, like, not do that? [People, 5.11.23]
- Fox renewed Next Level Chef for two more seasons, citing its ratings for season two—which of course were helped by its post-Super Bowl premiere that Fox says “delivered 16.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched cooking series telecast in television history and the #1 entertainment series telecast in two years.” [5.11.23]
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus loves Survivor and The Amazing Race: “My guilty-pleasure TV shows to truly turn my brain off are Survivor and Amazing Race. I don’t know why, but I just love both of those shows. They’re good!” [Rolling Stone, 5.9.23]
- E! ordered House of Villains, a show it calls “outrageously sinister” with “10 of reality television’s most iconic and infamous villains under one roof where they must outsmart, out-manipulate and out-scheme each other.” Joel McHale will host; it airs this fall. [5.9.23]
- Oxygen ordered a seventh season of Cold Justice, which will air in 2024, plus Texas Justice with Kelly Siegler, on which Kelly “takes viewers through complicated and disturbing murders in the bucolic towns and urban centers of her home state.” [5.8.23]
- CBS is now casting for Lotería Loca, a new game show based on the card game, which host and executive producer Jaime Camil described as “similar to bingo” and “something that resonates even more with every single Latinx person.” [CBS, 5.4.23]
- The newly merged Warner Bros. Discovery is ordering less reality TV. A new Ampere Analysis report says that the “Between July 2022 and March 23, there were 241 fewer Unscripted TV commissions in the US: WBD Unscripted commissions accounted for 172 of them, a 32% drop for the company’s Unscripted commissions overall.” The analysis notes that Paramount cut its reality TV by 16 percent and Comcast/NBCUniversal cut its by 13 percent, though Disney increased their unscripted orders. [Ampere, 5.3.23]
- Nick Cannon will host the new season of Beat Shazaam, Jamie Foxx is still hospitalized in Atlanta for an unknown illness. Foxx did write, on Instagram, “Appreciate ya my boy @nickcannon. See u all soon.” [Fox, 5.3.23]
- FBOY Island is moving to The CW, which has also ordered the spin-off FGIRL Island. No word as to why part of the names are now SHOUTING AT US. (HBO Max called it “FBoy Island.”) Nikki Glaser will host both, which will film this summer. [The CW, 5.2.23]
- Dancing with the Stars will be back on ABC this fall, but also still keep streaming live on Disney+. Joe Adalian reports that the move to Disney+ was “dictated by execs at the now-defunct Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution (DMED) division, most of whom have been pushed out of the company in the months since Robert Iger returned as Disney CEO.” [Vulture, 5.3.23]
- Carla Campbell, the bounty hunter featured on Showtime’s Love Fraud, died recently, according to a note posted on her GoFundMe, which she started after learning she had “stage four metastasized lung cancer.” [4.28.23]
reality blurred updates
Here’s an archive of updates I posted to reality blurred’s front page:
- Tuesday, May 30: My dad died last night, so this week is a little *shrug emoji* for me in terms of updates here. I do hope to have some reviews up soon, but we’ll see. Hug your loved ones for me!
- Sunday, May 28: Why doesn’t Netflix do two or three Barbecue Showdowns every year? It has two of the best judges on reality TV today—more, please!
- Monday, May 22: My Top Chef recap is coming later today!
- Thursday, May 18: The latest Jeff Probst podcast episode is a total waste of time—except there is one fascinating reveal. My recap covers that for you!
- Monday, May 15: Netflix’s Outlast, which shocked with its lack of rules and turned one of its players into a villain, will return for a second season.
- Monday, May 15: The Real Housewives of New York City “legacy” cast will go on vacation to Saint Barthélemy together on Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip, rather than hanging out in New York City. The cast: Kelly Killoren Bensimon, Luann de Lesseps, Dorinda Medley, Sonja Morgan, Ramona Singer, and Kristen Taekman.
- Friday, May 12: Jeff Probst says: “I’d rather [Survivor] died because [I] went too far.” Read my latest recap of his podcast for more.
- Sunday, May 7: I made a Traitors fan t-shirt!
- Friday, May 5: In Jeff Probst’s latest podcast episode, he defends not letting players play—and also explores how the show is filmed
- Wednesday, May 3: Nick Cannon is taking over hosting Beat Shazaam for Jamie Foxx, who’s been in the hospital since early April.
- Monday, May 1: Dancing with the Stars is moving back to ABC, though it’ll still stream live on Disney+, too.